Islam and Modernization: A Comparative Analysis of Pakistan, Egypt, and Turkey

By Javaid Saeed | Go to book overview
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6
THE RELIGIOPOLITICAL SYSTEM OF EGYPT AND MODERNIZATION

The first attempt to modernize Egypt began in the early nineteenth century but ended in a fiasco. Much of this movement toward modernization in the 1800s was based on international borrowing, and when Egypt was unable to pay its loans, the country was occupied by the British. 1 In the so-called modernization efforts, emphasis was on appearances. No major changes were made in the structures of the society; the society continued to function as it had in the preceding several centuries.

The movement to reform Egyptian society began in the late nineteenth century. Its leading figure was Jamal al-Din al-Afghani ( 1836-1897), who had lived in Egypt for eight years. His first call was to fight imperialism which had devastated Muslim countries; he advocated modernization of the country and adoption of Western science and technology.

It was not until 1952, however, that Egypt was able to end British occupation and become a sovereign independent state after seventy years of British rule. The coup of 1952 by Gamal Abdel Nasser marked the end of "two thousand years of slavery" by the Egyptians. 2 The new leaders faced a gigantic task. As Anwar Sadat phrased it in later years, "The problem was to get Egypt out of the Middle Ages, to turn it from a semi-feudal country into a modern, ordered, viable State." 3

In this chapter our focus is on developments in Egypt after 1952, with special reference to the modernization efforts of the regimes. We will also examine an earlier part of Egyptian history, from around the turn of the century, which provided the intellectual basis for the developments that culminated in Egypt's independence and paved the way for subsequent modernization efforts.

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